|07BAKU252||2007-03-01 11:19:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Embassy Baku|
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 07 BAKU 000252
1. (U) As per reftel, paragraph 3 below begins Embassy Baku's
submission on status of action the GOAJ has taken to combat human
trafficking. Answers are keyed to questions in reftel.
2. (SBU) In preparing this report, the Embassy has undertaken
extensive contacts with international organizations, domestic
non-governmental organizations (NGOs), journalists, and GOAJ
officials, and has analyzed all available data. Reliable statistics
on trafficking in Azerbaijan do not exist, but more information is
becoming available as the issue gains attention from international
organizations, local NGOs, and the GOAJ. To the extent that
transnational trafficking occurs here, we believe that Azerbaijan is
primarily a transit and source country, and not a major destination
point; however, some believe that as Azerbaijan's oil wealth
increases, the country will become a destination point. Local NGOs
believe that internal trafficking of men for forced labor, primarily
to the capital for work in the construction industry, is becoming a
growing problem. It is also possible that internal trafficking of
women for work in the sex industry exists. Prostitution is illegal
and publicly highly stigmatized in this secular Islamic society;
however, a growing sex industry does exist. While trafficking
exists, we believe that prostitution and irregular economic
migration are more predominant in Azerbaijan than trafficking in
persons. Due to the lack of public awareness and understanding
regarding the exact definition of TIP, it is likely that in civil
society and possibly GOAJ reporting, the terms trafficking,
prostitution, economic migration, and migrant smuggling are often
confused and used interchangeably.
In 2006 the GOAJ undertook some important steps to prevent and
combat trafficking. The National TIP Coordinator, who was appointed
in 2005, continued to work with the President's Office to address
the GOAJ's TIP obligations. Throughout the spring, the GOAJ
cooperated with the international community to identify and train
volunteers to staff the TIP victims' assistance shelter and the
pending NGO-led TIP hotline.
In August, the GOAJ restructured the Ministry of Internal Affairs
(MIA) to create a new Unit to Combat Trafficking in Persons. Prior
to this unit's creation, the GOAJ's anti-TIP efforts had been the
responsibility of a sub-unit located within the Organized Crime
Unit, which has been implicated repeatedly in credible allegations
of gross human rights violations and has failed to properly
investigate and prosecute those responsible for these violations.
We view the separation of anti-TIP responsibilities from the OCU as
a positive step, and see the creation of the new unit as a signal
that the GOAJ is taking its TIP commitments seriously.
In a step beyond the agreement outlined in the National Action Plan,
in September the GOAJ designated a TIP-hotline number that will be
accessible toll-free both within Azerbaijan and internationally once
the NGO-led hotline is functional.
In October, the GOAJ opened an assistance shelter for victims of
trafficking in persons. Throughout the building selection and
renovation process, the GOAJ was receptive to international
recommendations regarding the security infrastructure of the
building and the accommodations necessary for a victims' shelter.
BAKU 00000252 002.4 OF 007
Financially, the GOAJ provided the building and funded most of the
necessary renovations. In addition, because the donor organizations
have not yet established a Memorandum of Understanding with the GOAJ
regarding the shelter's overhead costs and staff salaries, the GOAJ
has paid all overhead and salary costs in the interim.
As of March 1, the GOAJ had designated a location suitable to house
the pending NGO-led hotline, which it plans to renovate and make
operational within the coming months. The GOAJ has been receptive
to international recommendations regarding the hotline, and we
expect that the GOAJ will continue to be receptive to international
advice on this and on improving its TIP-related infrastructure.
In addition, during this reporting period, the GOAJ acknowledged for
the first time that labor trafficking occurs in Azerbaijan.
According to the Head of the MIA's Unit to Combat Trafficking in
Persons, the GOAJ will implement plans to combat labor trafficking
in the coming year.
BEGIN TEXT OF THE REPORT:
3. (SBU) A. Azerbaijan is a country of origin and transit, and to a
lesser degree a country of destination for internationally
trafficked men, women, and children. According to the GOAJ, 86
victims of trafficking were identified in 2006 (3 children, 74
women, and 9 men). The GOAJ reported that one victim was Moldovan
and the rest were citizens of Azerbaijan. Local NGOs reported that
in 2006, they also identified approximately 20 Uzbek victims, two
victims each from Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, one victim each from
Russia and Ukraine, and several possible victims from Bangladesh and
Pakistan (explained below). The GOAJ maintains that the Uzbek
victims were prostitutes, rather than TIP victims, who have since
been deported. IOM reported that it helped repatriate 16 victims in
2006, and as of March 1, three in 2007. Five of these were Uzbek,
one Kyrgyz, and the rest - including three minors - were female
Azerbaijani victims, most of whom had been trafficked to Turkey.
IOM also reported knowledge of four female Azerbaijani victims who
were trafficked to New Delhi, India for sexual exploitation. As of
March 1, IOM was assisting one victim, an Azerbaijani minor who had
been trafficked to Zagreb, Croatia. All victims whom IOM assisted
had been trafficked for sexual exploitation.
According to the GOAJ, Azerbaijani victims were trafficked by air to
the United Arab Emirates; Turkey; Iran; Pakistan; India; and Russia.
Azerbaijani victims were also trafficked by railway and by sea
routes through Georgia to Turkey, and by land from the Azerbaijani
exclave of Nakhchivan to Turkey. The Moldovan victim was trafficked
by air through Azerbaijan to Dubai, UAE. NGO activists maintain
that Azerbaijan continued to be used as a transit point for Central
Asian victims trafficked to Turkey. NGO activists believe that an
increasing number of Azerbaijani victims and transit victims end up
in Western European countries such as Germany, France, Greece,
Finland, and the Netherlands. Local NGOs also reported rumors that
Azerbaijani victims are trafficked by bus from Azerbaijan's southern
regions to Tehran, Iran, but we have been unable to confirm these
The GOAJ reported that 77 TIP victims, including three minors, were
sexually exploited, and nine were trafficked for forced labor.
(NOTE: In previous years, the GOAJ reported no instances of labor
trafficking.) Local non-governmental organizations, however,
maintain that the numbers are greater than those officially
BAKU 00000252 003.4 OF 007
documented by the GOAJ and that trafficking of men for labor is a
growing problem. While we believe official figures may not
represent the entirety of the problem in Azerbaijan, figures
generated from local NGOs are also not entirely reliable due to lack
of capacity, lack of training, lack of understanding of what
constitutes TIP, and the hidden nature of the crime. The few local
NGOs that work on TIP report only irregularly and the GOAJ publishes
reports annually on its efforts.
The nine GOAJ-reported instances of labor trafficking were all
Azerbaijani men who were trafficked to Russia. One local NGO
reported several cases that appear to be labor trafficking in the
form of debt bondage. These were alleged cases of groups of
Bangladeshi and Pakistani men who were lured to Azerbaijan by the
prospect of onward travel to Europe by individuals claiming to be
travel agents. According to the NGO, these men were subsequently
held hostage for several months, as their captors demanded more
money than the initially agreed-upon amount, which the victims had
intended to pay for travel services. Once the captors obtained the
requested sum from the victims' families, the men were released.
The NGO representative reported that three of the Bangladeshi
victims were minors. He also reported that the trafficker of the
Pakistani victims was also Pakistani, and was subsequently convicted
with illegal transportation and document forgery.
We also believe that trafficking occurs within Azerbaijan's borders,
but there is little concrete information to verify this point.
According to the GOAJ, there were no cases of internal trafficking
in 2006. One local NGO reported several cases of internal labor
trafficking from Azerbaijan's regions to Baku to work in the
construction industry. From our discussions with civil society
groups and journalists, we also suspect that there is internal
trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation.
According to the GOAJ and to several local NGOs, the Azerbaijani
exclave of Nakhchivan has become a transit point for women
trafficked to Turkey. A Nakhchivan-based NGO reported that
Nakhchivan is also sometimes used as a transit point for victims
trafficked to Iran.
Some NGOs believe that Azerbaijan is becoming a destination country
for women from Central Asian countries, Russia, and Georgia. The
few cited cases of this appear to be instances in which Azerbaijan
was intended to be the transit point, but became the end point.
Although there currently is not concrete information to support
these claims, Azerbaijan's huge influx of oil wealth - causing the
country to have the world's fastest growing economy - could result
in Azerbaijan becoming a destination point.
There was no reliable information regarding trafficking to, from, or
through the Azerbaijani territory currently occupied by Armenian
forces, including Nagorno-Karabakh. The GOAJ does not exercise
control over this territory.
It is difficult to identify vulnerable populations due to the
overall lack of information on TIP crimes. It is believed, however,
that most victims are lured for economic prospects, including those
who knowingly agree to work in the sex industry. The GOAJ and local
NGOs reported that traffickers are increasingly using the prospect
of marriage to lure victims. This is often through religious
marriages, which are recognized only by mosques and not the state,
and/or early marriages, which UNIFEM reported are on the rise
BAKU 00000252 004.4 OF 007
throughout the former Soviet Union. Both religious and early
marriages occur most frequently in Azerbaijan's southern regions.
In spite of GOAJ and NGO attention to the matter, religious and
early marriages remain a taboo topic and no concrete information is
It is generally believed that women are at the highest risk for
trafficking. Women from a variety of backgrounds have become TIP
victims, making it difficult to determine a set pattern. IDP and
refugee communities are often reported to be at the highest risk,
although we suspect that other extremely impoverished populations -
some of which live in worse conditions than IDPs/refugees - are at
equal risk. A 2006 UNIFEM Report on IDP Women in Azerbaijan
concluded that TIP remains a taboo subject in these communities, and
there is insufficient evidence to determine the degree to which
IDPs/refugees are at risk. Civil society groups have also reported
that street children and children in orphanages are vulnerable to
trafficking and other exploitive actions, commonly in the form of
child begging. In addition, it is believed men seeking jobs may be
trafficked internally to work on Baku's numerous construction
projects or internationally to places such as Russia or Turkey.
However, with the exception of the nine GOAJ-reported cases of labor
trafficking, there were no reliable statistics available to
differentiate between irregular labor migration, trafficking, and
poor working conditions.
B. As stated above, it is believed the TIP situation in Azerbaijan
has not changed significantly in its nature in the past year,
although many NGOs and the GOAJ believe the crime is becoming more
hidden due to increased GOAJ efforts to combat TIP. One local NGO
reported that the number of trafficking routes has increased because
of the need to vary activity to evade heightened law enforcement
attention. However, there was no reliable data to verify this
assertion. The GOAJ has demonstrated political will throughout the
year to combat and prevent trafficking in persons in Azerbaijan, as
demonstrated by its efforts to create the necessary infrastructure.
Because of the high level of poverty it is difficult to distinguish
between those who travel internally or leave the country voluntarily
to prostitute themselves for economic reasons, and those who are
unwittingly recruited into the sex industry via traffickers. It is
likely that these numbers are often confused and interchanged. It
is also likely that a number of victims who voluntarily prostitute
themselves end up as trafficking victims. We believe a number of
methods are used to entice victims, including lucrative job offers
and solicitations by friends. Offers of marriage are also employed
to a lesser, but growing extent. While a variety of sources
indicate that networks of organized crime operate trafficking rings,
there was no reliable information to determine with clarity the
profile of the average trafficker in Azerbaijan. In 2006, female
traffickers were arrested in much higher numbers than male
traffickers. It is believed that a combination of false documents
and bribing officials (in particular border guards) are the primary
vehicles to move victims out of the country.
C. While the GOAJ has demonstrated the political will at a variety
of levels to address the problem, the GOAJ continues to struggle
with a number of other issues that distract it from anti-TIP
efforts. In spite of its increasing oil wealth, the GOAJ lacks
appropriately allocated funding to fulfill the projects it needs to
undertake to meet its TIP obligations. The GOAJ also lacks adequate
capacity to aid victims, because although a TIP victims' assistance
BAKU 00000252 005.4 OF 007
shelter is now open, the NGO-led TIP hotline and necessary referral
network are not yet functional, nor is a structured, systematic plan
to accommodate victims. In addition, in spite of the designation of
TIP liaisons in several other government agencies, the GOAJ's
efforts to combat TIP remain extremely concentrated in the MIA.
Some NGOs complain that MIA's dominance of the field leaves little
room for civil society to operate.
In spite of the aforementioned difficulties, the GOAJ made
significant steps during the year to address these issues. As of
March 1, the GOAJ had designated a location to house an NGO-led TIP
hotline, which it plans to renovate and open in the coming months.
Pervasive corruption remained one of the biggest impediments to GOAJ
action. The GOAJ has taken some steps to address systemic
corruption, but much remains to be done. While we do not believe
that officers working directly on TIP issues facilitated TIP crimes,
widespread corruption problems make it possible that lower-level
officials accept bribes to either turn the other way or to directly
D. The GOAJ, through its National Action Plan, systematically
monitors anti-TIP efforts and provides regular updates to the USG
and other international partners with the expertise to help the GOAJ
address the problem. The GOAJ also periodically makes available its
crime statistics throughout the year, including TIP statistics.
Efforts at prevention are less well publicized; however, the GOAJ
periodically published press releases on conferences and seminars
intended to educate the population.
A. The GOAJ acknowledges that TIP occurs in Azerbaijan and
consistently states its commitment privately and publicly to
developing more effective activities and policies to combat TIP to
prevent the development of a large-scale problem.
B. The GOAJ agencies involved in anti-TIP efforts include the
Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of National Security,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry
of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Justice,
Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, Ministry of Health, the
Prosecutor General's Office, the State Committee for Family, Women
and Children's Issues, the State Border Services and the State
Customs Committee. The MIA takes the lead on anti-TIP efforts; the
National TIP Coordinator is a Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs.
The MIA also oversees the Special Anti-Trafficking Police Squad
(SPATS), now under the purview of its Unit to Combat Trafficking in
C. The GOAJ has conducted several joint seminars with local NGOs in
a number of regions throughout Azerbaijan, involving youth, local
government authorities, and police representatives. The objective
of these seminars was to investigate the reasons and conditions
behind TIP in Azerbaijan. The GOAJ conducted a joint seminar with
the State Committee on Work with Religious Structures on the role of
clerical leaders in fighting trafficking in persons. High-level
representatives of the State Committee on Family, Women and
Children's Issues regularly traveled throughout the regions to
conduct seminars and trainings on a wide variety of gender issues,
including education on trafficking and TIP-prevention. These
seminars targeted women in the regions from all sectors of society.
BAKU 00000252 006.4 OF 007
The GOAJ also printed and distributed pamphlets and used the media
to increase public awareness of TIP, including the creation of a
website for the MIA's Unit to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
D. With a poverty rate of 30 percent, the GOAJ has made job creation
and economic development a priority. The State Program for Poverty
Reduction and the State Program on Social-Economic Development in
the regions provide a strategic plan for development outside the oil
economy and permanent job creation. These programs have reduced the
poverty level from over 50 percent several years ago to around 30
percent in 2006. The GOAJ has also continued efforts to build
permanent housing for IDPs, using the State Oil Fund. In 2006,
President Aliyev declared that the GOAJ will eliminate all tent
camps by the end of 2007. These programs will and likely have
already reduced the occurrence of trafficking by creating better
domestic employment prospects and better living conditions, two of
the key factors of TIP in Azerbaijan. As stated above, the State
Committee on Family, Women, and Children's Issues also regularly
works with Azerbaijani women to empower them and raise public
awareness of gender issues. Through the Ministry of Education, the
GOAJ also supported school information programs run by domestic
E. The GOAJ takes a clear lead on anti-TIP efforts. The lead
government interlocutors include the President's Advisor on Law
Enforcement Bodies and the National TIP Coordinator. The GOAJ works
with several local NGOs. The National Coordinator and the
President's Office regularly interact with the international
community on TIP (namely the International TIP Working Group,
comprised of the USG, OSCE, and IOM) and seek our advice and
assistance on implementation of programs to combat TIP. During the
past year, the GOAJ worked in close consultation with the
international community to renovate and open a shelter for
trafficking victims, and continued to work towards establishing an
NGO-led TIP hotline. We expect close collaboration to continue on
these measures and with future projects.
F. The GOAJ has continued efforts to enhance active monitoring of
its borders and its international airports, and increased training
for immigration personnel. The MIA works with the State Border
Services and the State Customs Committee to track passengers flying
in and out of Baku's Heydar Aliyev International Airport in order to
identify potential traffickers and trafficking victims, and to
monitor seaports and land crossings.
G. The GOAJ, through the mechanism adopted in the 2004 National
Action Plan, coordinates communication between various government
bodies and international institutions. The multi-agency task force
is headed by the National TIP Coordinator, who is also a Deputy
Minister of Internal Affairs. The task force is composed of
department heads from the Ministries of Justice, National Security,
Labor and Social Welfare, Youth and Sport, Culture and Tourism,
Economic Development, and Health, as well as the Prosecutor
General's Office, the President's Office, the State Border Service,
and the State Customs Committee. The National Coordinator serves as
the single point of contact for anti-TIP efforts.
Under the 2004 legislation on combating corruption, the GOAJ
established the Anti-Corruption Commission led by the President's
Chief of Staff, which includes other members of the President's
Office, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of National
Security, Parliament, the Constitutional Court, the Prosecutor
BAKU 00000252 007.4 OF 007
General's Office, and the Ministry of Justice. The Anti-Corruption
Commission submits annual reports to the President, Parliament, and
the Constitutional Court. Under the Commission, the GOAJ also
established an inter-agency legislative working group to draft new
legislation. The USG and other international organizations advise
the working group. The GOAJ also regularly works with the USG, the
Council of Europe, and other international experts to vet proposed
corruption legislation. Additionally, the Prosecutor General's
office created a separate Department to Fight Corruption. However,
the GOAJ's efforts to combat systemic corruption remained nascent.
H. The GOAJ has a National Action Plan (NAP) to address TIP,
adopted in 2004. The NAP was developed by the President's Office
and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in consultation with the USG,
OSCE, and IOM. Since 2004, the GOAJ has discussed the NAP with
target audience groups at conferences and seminars related to
trafficking. Key elements of the NAP were codified in 2005 with the
passage of a formal law against trafficking.